The new tourist attraction at Viking Park Iceland is a replica of a Viking ship donated by Norway to the City of Reykjavík back in 1974 to mark the 1,100th anniversary of the island's settlement by Norsemen. 

Honoring the first settlers 

Örninn ("the Eagle") has recently been installed at Hjörleifshöfði in Mýrdalssandur, a gigantic rock formation set on black volcanic outwash at the very southern tip of Iceland. 

Farther around the south coast is Reykjanesskagi, close to the modern-day capital of Reykjavík, where Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson and his wife, Hallveig Fróðadóttir, are thought to have first landed in 874. 

"We wanted to introduce the history of the settlement to the nation and foreign tourists and to draw people's attention to a new and exciting destination. Part of that is the Viking ship," said Jóhann Vignir Hróbjartsson, Director of Viking Park Iceland. 

Örninn was built in Norway together with another boat, Hrafninn ("the Raven"), in 1973. The idea for their construction came from a group of enthusiasts who relied on photos and other information, working on reproductions of Norwegian Viking and fishing vessels. 

Both Hrafninn and Örninn were sailed to Iceland in 1974 and presented to the Icelanders as a gift from three Norwegian cities in memory of the "common shipbuilding heritage of the Nordic countries" on the 1,100th anniversary of the settlement of Iceland. 

After 1974, the Eagle was mostly stored in Nautólsvík, Árbæjarsafn, and Korpúlfsstaðir, while the sister ship, the Raven, was kept in the Húsavík Museum on the north coast. 

Now, the Eagle has been brought out of mothballs to become a key attraction at Viking Park Iceland. 

This is not the first time that Örninn has stood center-stage in five decades in Iceland. In 1983, the Eagle appeared in the opening scene of the Viking film Hrafninn flýgur by Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. 

In 1987, it was sailed on Jökulsárlón in the movie In the Shadow of the Raven, and it was also used in the films Hvíti víkingurinn and Svo á jörðu sem á himni in 1991. 

Hjörleifshöfði, a prominent rock formation in southern Iceland, now hosts the replica Viking ship Örninn, adding to its historical significance linked to early Norse settlers. Photo: Viking Park Iceland

Glaciers, caves, and volcanoes 

"Attracting travelers since 874," Viking Park Iceland is not a theme park but rather an undiscovered area of natural wonders where local entrepreneurs and landowners have combined to create a unique initiative to support sustainable tourism. 

Extending across 44.4 square miles, the area combines spectacular features such as the ice cave at Katla Glacier and the inselberg of Hafursey with historic attractions linked to Viking heritage. 

Here, the promontory of Hjörleifshöfði, named after Norse settler Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson, brother of Ingólfur Arnarson, rises 725 feet above Mýrdalssandur, a suitable site for his burial mound. 

Popular with hikers, this was also the site of the farmstead Hjörleifur established around 874. 

Washed away in 1721 by a glacial outburst from volcanic Mount Katla, the ruins could be seen – and were still marked on maps of Iceland – until Katla erupted again in 1918. 

The views from the top of Hjörleifshöfði are outstanding, stretching across to the black lava beaches and the sea beyond. 

Nearly 900 miles south is Ireland, from where monks are now thought by some experts to have sailed some 150 years before Hjörleifur and Ingólfur Arnarson, though archeological evidence remains scant. 

Hjörleifshöfði is now where the ambitious team behind Viking Park Iceland has placed the Eagle, allowing visitors to admire her fearsome outline set against the dramatic backdrop of Mýrdalssandur.

In due time, they will raise the mast, add ropes and oars, and update the information board alongside. Additionally, look out for a nearby Viking worship circle, created by the crew filming here in the early 1980s. 

Location: Viking Park Iceland, Hjörleifshöfði, 871 Vik, Iceland
Open: 24/7
Admission: 1,000 ISK per car (up to 8 persons). Revenue funds the maintenance of restrooms, picnic areas, information signs, and hiking trails. 

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